Sunday, 3 February 2013

A Morning at St Mary’s


St Mary’s Whitley Bay, is one of those places you might see lots of wildlife, mostly birds, or you might just see nothing.   With a return to freezing temperatures along with strong winds though forecast to be sunny, I wasn’t too sure what to expect.

I stopped off firstly at one of the vantage points overlooking the wetlands area – usually the quietest part of the whole area!  After nearly an hour of waiting, I was about to leave when a Kestrel flew low and landed on one of bird tables (why did they put these things up? – they are never stocked and ruin the look of the area).  Just as I started to focus on the bird, someone came up behind me, took out his compact camera and took a few pictures, as if to say that was nice, and left.  I waited an hour in the freezing cold for something to happen and he just walks by just at the right time!

The Kestrel didn’t stay long as it was soon hounded by a pair of Magpies, so flew off at which point a Crow took over and continue to mob the Kestrel out of the area.  I’ve always felt sorry for Kestrels.  Here they are, minding their own business, probably just looking for a mouse or vole and instead gets a whole lot of grief off a bird that’s as big or bigger than it and that’s in no danger from it.


Sequence of a Kestrel being ‘mobbed’ by a Crow


With the only bit of ‘action’ gone, I decided to head to the car park which usually has one or two food trailers – in this case two, Mister Whippy and one advertising ‘hot food’.  Hmm…winter, windy and freezing cold, Mr Whippy or some kind of hot food.  The decision wasn’t difficult and with my warm grub I headed towards the beach which, to my surprise was empty of the usual dog walkers and teaming with a wide variety of waders. 

Initially I just sat down and ate my food, as the tide was going out making it difficult to get close to these birds, but the opportunity was just too good to miss, so I got as close as I dared and sat down.  With my camera backpack on, it makes a great back rest when sitting down and I could rest my lens between my knees.  After the birds got used to my presence, I just snuck a bit closer every now and then though this was negated by the tide going out which of course, they were following, however, the Oystercatchers were big and obliging enough to get a decent picture of.

Conditions were almost perfect from a photographic point of view.  The sun was low behind me and bright enough for me to use a fast shutter speed and reasonably low ISO though I’m always willing to sacrifice ISO for a fast shutter speed especially when using the 500mm lens which, on this day, had the converter permanently attached.  If only the tide was coming in, this would have been a great session and I would have got some much closer images. 


After around forty minutes the evitable dog walkers came along and the birds were chased off.  Still, with strong, cold winds coming straight off the North Sea, I was starting to feel the cold and needed to get some circulation going so decided to head back.

One last opportunity.  In the fields on the way back, were three Curlews prodding around in the earth for, presumably, worms.  They certainly seemed very intent as they ignored me and I was able to get quite close to them as they methodically worked their way along the field.



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